Basic Bowling Glossary and Terms

Understanding the terminology in bowling is important.

You are not able to understand what is going on or who is winning if you are not able to follow the conversation.

This section will give you the basic terminology of bowling so that you can be informed before you start your game. If nothing else, this section will help you impress the people you are bowling with.

  • Box: refers to any single frame on the scoring card
  • Dead ball: is a ball that does not count, i.e. gutter ball or foul
  • Double: is two back to back strikes
  • Foul: is when a player steps on or over the foul line
  • Frame: one tenth part of a game
  • Gutter ball: a ball that rolls off the lane into the gutter or the side areas on either side of the lane
  • Mark: is a strike or spare
  • Spare: when a player knocks down all 10 pins in their 2 rolls
  • Strike: when a player knocks down all 10 pins on their first roll of the frame
  • String: is a series of strikes in a row
  • Turkey: three strikes in a row

You should also familiarize with the words for a few common bowling techniques.

Straight bowling is the "point and shoot", straight down the lane style of bowling that most beginners rely on. Hook balls are balls that are thrown so that they travel in a straight line until they reach the break point, from where they gradually arc out and then hook back in to knock down the pins.

If a hook (or curve) ball nearly falls into the gutter before turning towards its target, this shot is called a bender.

Axis tilt refers to how much vertical spin you put on the ball, and axis rotation refers to how much horizontal spin you put on the ball. Axis tilt and axis rotation all influence how, when, and where a hook ball makes its turn.

If you're getting into league bowling, there are a few league related terms you should take note of. The anchor on any bowling team is the player who bowls last, usually the best player. The first person that plays is called the lead man.

Each frame is numbered from 1 through 10. The foundation frame is the ninth frame of a match. If a bowler fails to get a strike or spare in any particular frame, the frame is called an open frame. If there is no open frame in a game, then it is called a clean game.

Like most sports, bowling has tons of slang, and some of it is regional, so getting to know all the little ins and outs of bowling lingo will take some time.

If someone talks on your team tells you to hit the barmaid, they're talking about the pin behind another pin. A strike ball is known as a snow plow. Slow balls are known as creepers, and if you roll a gutter ball, it might be also called a poodle.

Get to know these basic terms, however and you won't sound like the odd man out at the bowling alley. Pretty soon you'll be telling the keglers (bowlers) to watch their chicken wings (elbows) when throwing their apple (bowling ball).